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Iconic songs by Marley, Marcia Griffiths airing in mainstream US TV ads

Reggae the heartbeat of the world, says NY-based tourism specialist

Published:Wednesday | February 15, 2023 | 12:57 AMAnthony Turner/Gleaner Writer
Queen of Reggae, Marcia Griffiths.
Queen of Reggae, Marcia Griffiths.
Bob Marley
Bob Marley
Jonathan Spitz served as global accounts director with FCB, when the company pioneered the 
award-winning 'One Love' television ad campaign for the Jamaica Tourist Board.
Jonathan Spitz served as global accounts director with FCB, when the company pioneered the award-winning 'One Love' television ad campaign for the Jamaica Tourist Board.
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NY:

Reggae is in the history books once again! For the first time in Jamaica’s history, iconic songs by Reggae King Robert Nesta Marley and Reggae Queen Marcia Griffiths are featured in television ads that are airing currently in the United States.

A remixed version of Electric Boogie by Reggae Queen Marcia Griffiths and Shaggy for Jeep premiered to millions of viewers globally last Sunday during the 2023 Super Bowl, while a Sandals Resort TV spot that features Marley’s Three Little Bird is currently airing in select markets in the USA on NBC TV.

The 30-second spot for Sandals first aired on July 11, 2020 and then again on January 5, 2023. The ad features a couple enjoying a romantic getaway to a Sandals in Jamaica while Three Little Birds sets the mood for their trip. The iconic song was the fourth track from Marley’s 1977 album, Exodus, and was released as a single in 1980. The song peaked at number 17 on the charts in the UK and is one of Marley’s most popular songs.

Griffiths, a member of Marley iconic backing singers the I-Three (with Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt) started her career in the ‘60s during the rocksteady era. She first garnered international prominence in 1970 with the Nina Simone cover Young, Gifted and Black, which was recorded with Bob Andy. She mined Billboard success with a version of Electric Boogie, which inspired the ‘Electric Slide.’ The song peaked at #51 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and is her most successful single to date. Electric Boogie was originally written and produced by reggae legend Bunny Wailer in 1983.

Marley and Griffiths are not the only two Jamaicans with reggae songs featured in mainstream TV ads currently airing in the USA. Toots & The Maytals’ iconic 1973 hit, 54-46 (Was My Number) is used in a Levi 501s TV commercial. The ad titled ‘Precious Cargo – The Greatest Story Ever Worn’ tells the story of the Levi 501 jeans arriving in Kingston in the ’70s and how Jamaicans made them their own.

Shaggy’s song Boombastic premiered on January 1 this year in an airbnb’s 30-second TV commercial . Boombastic was recorded in 1995 and is the title track from Shaggy’s third studio album. It was previously used in a 1990s Levi’s ad.

The Caribbean enjoyed additional mainstream visibility in the USA as during the Super Bowl, Jamaican actress Sheryl Lee Ralph sang Lift Every Voice and Sing ahead of the Super Bowl kickoff while Barbadoes-born Rihanna headlined the official halftime show.

Utilising reggae to drive mainstream TV ad campaigns is not a new phenomenon. The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) was a pioneer in utilising reggae, particularly songs by Marley, for global advertising campaigns in the 1990s.

“I remember resistance in the boardroom to using reggae music in the Jamaica Tourist Board advertising campaign many years ago, dating back to about 1996 -1997,” shared Jonathan Spitz, NY-based tourism specialist.

Spitz was the then global accounts director with FCB, which pioneered the award winning One Love TV ad campaign for the JTB.

“We had to do a lot of work because there was a perception at that time amongst some that reggae music was associated with gangs and criminals and therefore was linked to negatives that would impact tourism negatively. We had to make a really strong argument that reggae music represented something positive. We had to bring in research to prove that,” he stated.

Spitz added that when the initial engagement between the JTB and the Marley family to license the use of the One Love song was signed, it was only for a series of one-year contracts.

“When we sat and made this argument, we convinced the JTB to agree to a 10-year contract!” he exclaimed.

Speaking about the need for artistes to protect their brand, intellectual property attorney Karen Wilson-Robinson said, “ Electric Boogie/Electric Slide has been around since I was a child, but it is still very much appealing to today’s audiences and it, being a brand from a copyright perspective, speaks to the importance of protecting your music and intellectual property before you put it out there so you are compensated if the need arises.”

When asked about the use of Marley, Griffiths and other reggae songs in mainstream TV ad campaigns, Spitz said, “Clearly it emphasises how right we were. We were right a thousand times over and what we see today is proof of that. Reggae is the heartbeat of the world,” he proclaimed.

entertainment@gleanerjm.com